Radmila Karlaš - Writing Justice
Olivera Simic, a former Fellow of NEWW, just published a paper about Radmila, her friend from Bosnia, a writer and former journalist who is under the death threats for her writing against the current regime. The paper is published in the German Law Journal , 'After the War in Bosnia: Radmila's Life Under Handbrake'
“Ljudski rod ne mrzi toliko one koji èine zlo, ni samo zlo, koliko onog ko imenuje zlo.”
Writer Radmila Karlaš lives and works in Banja Luka, the political and economic center of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) entity Republika Srpska (RS). Four years ago, Radmila left journalism because, in her own words, journalism had been “reduced to serve only the centers of power in BiH.” Since then she has published two novels, Four Leaf Clover and The Silence of Mestizos. Both works deal with the direct experience of war in BiH, with the phenomenon of evil in human nature, and attempt to demystify the process that has led her homeland into the situation in which it now finds itself. The novels also analyze the war crimes committed against the non-Serb population in Radmila’s hometown, Banjaluka, and in Prijedor, a town in the northern-western part of BiH.
In 2009, Radmila published her first novel Four Leaf Clover which quickly gained popularity in BiH and throughout the Balkan region. Between September and December of the same year, the novel was placed in the top four of an influential readers’ list in BiH. Still, Radmila told me that the feedback she received from the readership was that her books arrived
“too early, because almost nobody wants to face the truth about past.” Her second novel traces how the former Yugoslavia fell apart and how the collapse mutilated BiH, which is now, she argues, “a deeply divided country with a terrible political oligarchy and religious shackles.”Radmila’s books are often praised by the Bosniak community and condemned by
Serbs, who she has called on to account for the crimes they committed. She has been named as “the first person in Republika Srpska who talks and writes about the war crimes in her own home city,” and her novel Four Leaf Clover “the first novel from RS which talks about the crimes committed in this entity.”
Radmila is well known locally and to lesser extent to an international audience. Although, due to her writing,as she puts it, “the ring around me is completely closed,” Radmila has managed to find ways to travel and promote her books. She launched her first novel in BiH, as well as in Scandinavia a nd at Harvard Kennedy School in Boston. However, for her second novel, Radmila has yet to leave the borders of her former homeland.
Everything she has earned from selling the books, Radmila has invested in future editions of the novels.
She has been paying off the print run of her second novel over the last two years and still has a debt of 150 euros. However, she says she cannot complain about the poor sales of her books, if, as she puts it, “we take into account the general (non) culture and quasi-cultural trends in BiH.” As a result, according to Radmila, “when Banjaluka
bookstores sell 20 books a month, that is a success.”
Before the war, Radmila worked as a freelance journalist for a number of media outlets across the former Yugoslavia. At the beginning of the war, she found an alternative magazine in BiH, Novi Prelom, aimed at tolerance, coexistence, and fighting against racial, religious, and any other intolerance. She was the first person from RS to visit Sarajevo after the signing of the Dayton Agreement on the invitation of the Forum for Democratic Initiative. Also, she was among the first to participate in seminars and give lectures on her assessment of the situation in the country, including before parliament in Vienna in September 1996 and later on before the governments of Austria, France and the United
States. She has been working closely with likeminded people and not-for-profit organizations across the former Yugoslavia on projects related to reconciliation and dealing with the past. Between 1998 and 2004, she was a coordinator of Amnesty International in BiH. During the same period she also worked as a correspondent for the Serbian service of BBC for the RS. Today, Radmila is jobless and lives with her parents on their modest pension.
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